Land Ho!

To travel between the Galapagos Islands, officials search your bags at the ports to check if you have any plants or animals that you could spread to other islands, and disrupt the environments there. They lock your bags up so you can’t access them until you reach the other island. Other officials cut them off when you arrive at your destination island. We were told by Victor to take seasickness pills as soon as we woke up that morning, and I’m so glad I did. Some people were sick on the boat. I only saw flying fish and many seabirds on the boat rides, but some people saw a sea turtle and a pod of dolphins.

A Sally lightfoot crab

A Sally lightfoot crab

A sea lion

A sea lion

We went to Floreana Island to the south of Santa Cruz. There is a very small settlement on this island, much smaller than Santa Cruz. We were greeted by a group of sea lions, bright red Sally lightfoot crabs and marine iguanas. There are no seals on the islands, only 2 species of sea lions. Seals do not have external ears, but sea lions do. There is a fur seal on the islands, but it is technically not a seal at all. The sea lions can be quite lazy and cute, but also quite territorial and aggressive – a couple of members got barked at because they were either too close or they were trying to sit on the same bench as one of the sea lions. A couple of times I witnessed two sea lions trying to bite each other.

We visited a black sand beach where we went snorkelling. Underwater, we saw a green sea turtle, a small shark, and many varieties of fish. The waters of the Galapagos aren’t very tropical, but colder, and have stronger currents. Therefore, the water was absent of many corals, and very murky. We had to be careful not to get swept out further out to sea or into the sharp rocks that were also home to sea urchins. We also had to wear life vests that we could inflate if we got in trouble. On the beach we found a heart-shaped rock, but one of the tour guides said it was actually a seedpod that was not found naturally on Floreana so we were told to throw it in the garbage.

A green sea turtle

A green sea turtle

A heart-shaped seedpod

A heart-shaped seedpod

Tortoises mating

Tortoises mating

Also on Floreana we took a hike to the highlands where were saw more tortoises, including two tortoises mating. They made a grunting sound that actually was coming from air being pushed out of the shell, rather than directly from the tortoise’s mouth.

This island was known to have pirates who came to hide their treasure, find freshwater, and to eat tortoise meat. We went to one of their lookout sites, and our guide Juan, re-enacted how the pirates would hide behind the rocks to look for newcomers to the island. We also saw a small space in the rocks where they housed their livestock. Even today you can see the holes where they put the logs into the rock to keep the animals in.

– Vincent Evans-Lucy